We are Gomer

The following is an excerpt from James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Minor Prophets.  I’m beginning this year by reading through the minor prophets first, and was immediately reminded of Boice’s love for this chapter as I read through it today. First, read through Hosea 3, then read Boice’s commentary on the chapter. Enjoy!

Hosea 3 (ESV)

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

The Greastest Chapter in the Bible – James Boice

The third chapter of Hosea is, in my judgment, the greatest chapter in the Bible, because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible – the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for his people – in the most concise and poignant form to be found anywhere. Our study of Hosea’s story has already shown that it is a pageant of the love of God for Israel, indeed, for his people in every place and age. But when we ask, “Where in the whole of human history is that love most clearly seen?” the answer is obviously, “At the cross of Christ.” It is that cross and the work accomplished on that cross that is portrayed in this chapter. Hosea 3 shows us God’s work of redemption – the work by which the Lord Jesus Christ delivered us from sin’s bondage at the cost of his own life – portrayed in Hosea’s purchase of his fallen wife from slavery.

Hosea owned his wife. She was his property. He could do anything he wished with her. If he had wanted to kill her out of spite, he could have done it. People might have called him a fool to waste his money on a worthless woman. She might have suffered far more as a slave to some beautiful woman where she wold have been obliged to fetch and serve and carry and watch and never enter into the kind of pleasures that brought her to her state in her first place. Still Hosea could have killed Gomer if he had wanted to. Yet he did not, because at this point Hosea’s love, which is an illustration of God’s love for us, burned brightest. Instead of seeking vengeance, he put Gomer’s clothes on her, led her away into the anonymity of the crowd, and claimed that love from her that was now his right. Moreover, as he did so, he promised no less from himself.

Does God love like that? Yes, God loves like that! God steps into the marketplace of sin and buys us out of sin’s bondage by the death of Christ. We read in our Bibles, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16). We ask, “What does so mean?” The answer is in Hosea’s story. When we see Hosea standing in the marketplace under orders from God to purchase his wife, who had become an adulteress and a slave, we recognize that this is the measure of God’s love.

We are Gomer. We are the slave sold on the auction block of sin. The world bids for us. The world bids fame, wealth, prestige, influence, power – all those things that are the world’s currency. But when all seemed lost, God sent the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, into the marketplace to buy us at the cost of his life.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets: Vol 1 An Expositional Commentary Hosea-Jonah. (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, 1983) pg. 31-36.

No Christmas without the Cross

fullsizeoutput_11a3The Christmas Tree is up at the Sayler house and we are preparing our home and hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth. We’ve always been very careful about how we decorate, avoiding the commercial and worldly images and themes of Christmas, and instead focusing on themes from Scripture – and this is especially noticeable on our tree.  Not quite a Chrismon Tree, all of our ornaments fall into 4 categories, Angels, Stars, Nativity Scenes, and Crosses.  Now the first three of those are readily seen in the story of Christ’s birth, but unless we keep the Cross in the story, the birth loses its meaning and purpose.  Indeed, there can be no Christmas without the Cross.

I’ve shared before from James Boice’s book The Christ of Christmas,* but I thought today I’d share just a bit from the opening chapter, The Christmas Story According to Jesus Christ. Boice finds the Christmas story according to Jesus in Hebrews 10:5-7, which is a direct quote from Psalm 40:6-8:

When Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’
Hebrews 10:5–7


What is it that our Lord emphasizes in these verses? First, that He came into the world for a purpose. That is important, for it is uniquely true of Him. It cannot be said of any other person that he or she came into the world to do something. It is often true that there are purposes parents have for their children. They hope that the child lying in a crib will grow up to do something significant in this world. If the parents are Christians, they want their child to be kept from sin and be able to serve Jesus Christ. Parents have those and other aspirations. But the child does not have them. The child has to acquire them. That is why, from a Christian perspective, the child must be taught its destiny from the pages of the Word of God.

But Jesus was different. Our Lord says that He came (and was conscious of coming) for a specific purpose. Moreover, He spells that purpose out: “I have come to do your will, O God.”

What was that will? God willed Christ to be our Savior.

I do not know why it is, be we often lose a sense of that purpose in telling the Christmas story. We focus so much on the birth of the baby and on the sentiment that goes with that story – and there is a certain amount of legitimate sentimentality that goes with it – that we miss the most important things. Actually, the story is treated quite simply in Scripture, and the emphasis is always on the fact that Jesus came to die. The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took a human body in oder that He might die for our salvation.  When our Lord speaks of His coming it is therefore highly understandable that He is thinking along those lines.

In the tenth chapter of Hebrews the author contrasts the sacrifices that took place in Israel before the coming of Christ – the sin offerings and burnt offerings, by which believers testified of their faith that God would accept them on the basis of the death of an innocent substitute – with Christ’s great and perfect sacrifice. It is in the context of that contrast, between the former things and that which has now come, between the shadow and the reality, that he brings in the quotations from Psalm 40. The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world with a purpose, and that purpose was to do God’s will: to be our Savior. We miss the most important thing about Christmas if we fail to see that.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Christ of Christmas (Moody Press; Chicago, Ill. 1983)pg 14.

 

My Current Reading List

I have the habit of reading several books at once. I don’t know if this is good for me or not. On the positive side, it keeps me thinking about a wide variety of topics all at the same time. On the other hand, it takes me forever to finish a book, and when I’m finished, I sometimes have a hard time keeping everything straight.

I thought I’d take the opportunity with this Midweek Message to share the books that I’m currently reading, with a brief synopsis and an encouragement for you to keep reading.

kingThe King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker Academic) by Thomas Schreiner.  Biblical Theology studies the unifying themes of the Bible in their own historical setting, in its own terms, and forms; learning who God is and what God is doing through the ongoing story of Scripture. I have just started The King In His Beauty, but already I am loving the study of Scripture and the emerging themes that will unfold through the rest of the book. It’s almost ike reading a commentary that was written in story form.

baxterWalking with God (GLH Publishing) by Richard Baxter. I try to always have an old pastoral book on my reading list to keep me well rounded, and Baxter is one of my favorites. Baxter was an English Puritan of the 17th century (i.e., Presbyterian), a theologian and pastor most noted for his book, The Reformed Pastor. Reading the Puritans is not always easy, they love to make lists (and lists within lists), and they exhaust a topic before moving on to the next, so you really have to commit to ploughing through the reading. But the treasure is worth he work. “Walking with God” studies what it means to be in communion with God and to love him above everything else. Baxter’s work is challenging, but encouraging all the while.

elderFinding Faithful Elders and Deacons (Crossway), by Thabiti Anyabwile. It’s that time of the year again when we as a church prayerfully consider nominating men to serve as Deacons and Elders. This is not light work, and I’ve been studying and praying, not just about who should serve, but how I can work to develop discipling relationships to help identify and train future leaders in the church. Anyabwile’s book is a quick read, but incredibly informative and practical.

The Wholwholee Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Crossway), by Sinclair Ferguson. Admittedly, when I bought this book for a reading group I’m in, I had never heard of the Marrow Controversy, but I love Sinclair Ferguson, and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read of his. The Whole Christ included. Recounting the Marrow Controversy of the 8th Century Church of Scotland which was essentially a divide over Legalism, Antinomianism, and the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works, Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

nameName above all Names (Crossway), by Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg. I picked this one up because I wanted to read something that wasn’t necessarily a theological study of Christ, but a biblical study on who Christ is and what He has one. Name above all Names is a reflection on 7 key qualities of Jesus’ identity and ministry, offering a meditation on the character of Christ. In case you didn’t notice, it’s another book by Sinclair Ferguson, with my second favorite scotsman preacher, Alistair Begg as well.

Studies on Daniel – As I am preaching through the book of Daniel for the next couple of months, I’m also reading a couple of commentaries on Daniel which I thought I’d mention here:

daneilPreaching Christ from Daniel (Eerdmans) by Sidney Greidanus. – In Preaching Christ from Daniel Sidney Greidanus shows preachers and teachers how to prepare expository messages from the six narratives and four visions in the book of Daniel. Using the most up-to-date biblical scholarship, Greidanus addresses foundational issues such as the date of composition, the author(s) and original audience of the book, its overall message and goal, and various ways of preaching Christ from Daniel. Throughout his book Greidanus puts front and center God’s sovereignty, providence, and coming kingdom. (from the website)

chapellThe Gospel According to Daniel (Baker) by Bryan Chapell. (From the cover) Often we read the book of Daniel in one of two ways – either as a book about a heroic man whose righteousness should inspire us to keep the faith, or as a roadmap to the end times that can, through careful study, tell us the day and hour (or nearly so) of Christ’s return. Both, says Bryan Chapell, are sadly missing the bigger picture – that God is the hero of the story, and he is in the midst of his unrelenting plan to rescue his people from their sin and its consequences. Pastors, teachers, and any Christian who wants to learn how to faithfully understand the book of Daniel without getting derailed by hero worship or prophetic mystery will value this grace-centered approach.

boiceDaniel: An Expositional Commentary (Baker), by James Boice. Boice was the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philadelphia, and his sermons were heard around the world on The Bible Hour. His commentaries give a verse by verse study of the text, and help apply the text to the readers experience. Reading Boice’s commentary is like reading his sermons, and it has been very encouraging as I approach the difficult task of preaching through Daniel.

Surrendered Lives

In sermon preparation, there is so much material that never makes it into the message – there’s just not enough time. Often, I simply get the edification that comes from studying the scriptures so deeply, but that’s as far as it goes. Other times, it’s just too good not to share and it winds up here, on my blog.

As I’ve was studying Philippians 1:19-20 I came across the following from James M. Boice that I had to share:

If the Lord Jesus Christ is to be magnified in our bodies, our bodies must be surrendered to him… This means that the kind of life the Bible advocates is impossible for the non-Christian; it is impossible for the one who has failed to come to God solely on the merits of Christ and His atoning death on Calvary. Nothing in the unsaved man can satisfy God in the slightest degree. All acts of human sacrifice apart from Christ, all acts of self denial apart from Christ, all acts of penance apart from Christ – all these are acts of human righteousness. And God call such acts filthy rags when measured by the standards of His holiness. It is only after a man has come to Christ, accepted Him as Savior, and committed himself to Christ irrevocably, that God moves him to make that sacrifice of his body through which Jesus Christ is magnified. Have you done this? Have you made this first and great commitment? If not, you need to. For all other steps in the Christian life flow from it.

Then, too, we must surrender our bodies to the Lord to use as He determines. Merely to see this truth is not sufficient; it must also be practiced. You must practice yielding your body to Christ. You must practice living to His glory as He gives you grace to do so. You must wake with the name of Jesus on your lips and commit the day to Him. You must surrender your thoughts to Him at breakfast. You must yield yourself to Him for guiding what you say when you enter the office or the factory, or when you begin to go about your household chores. You must ask Him to take control of your eyes, that they might be given to His service. You must give Him your tongue. Moreover, you must do so each moment as each is yielded to His direction.

In such a way Jesus Christ will be truly magnified in you, and you will be more and more able to say: It is “my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body.”

Boice, J.M., Philippians: An Expositional Commentary. (Grand Rapids; Zondervan Pub, 1971) pg 84.

No Shallow Christianity

As I was studying for Sunday’s message on Hosea, I came across the following from James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Minor Prophets.  This doesn’t really tie in anywhere with my sermon, but I found it particularly meaningful, so I thought I’d pass it on.

We live in an age where everything good is interpreted in terms of happiness and success.  So when we think of spiritual blessing we thing of it in terms of these things.  To be led of God and blessed by God means that we will be “happy” and “successful.”  In fact, if a Christian does not appear to be happy or successful, there are scores of people who will be ready (like Job’s counselors) to work with him or her to see what is wrong.  This is shallow thinking and shallow Christianity, for God does not always lead his people into ways that we would naturally regard as happy or as filled with success.  Was Jesus happy?  He was undoubtedly filled with joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit.  but he was also called “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  Was Jesus successful?  Not by our standards, nor by any standards that might have been applied to him by anyone living in that time.  Let us put down as a great principle: God sometimes leads his children to do things that afterwards involved them in great distress.  But because God does not think as we think or act as we act, it is often in these situations that he accomplishes his greatest victories and brings the greatest blessing to his name.

If God has allowed tragedy to slip into your life, this does not necessarily mean that you were out of his will when you married that husband or wife, took that job, or made that commitment.  He may be giving you a chance to show the love and character of Christ in your situation.

Again, you may be able to learn something of God’s love for you through the difficulty.  For what is the story of Hosea if not the story of ourselves as members of that body which is the bride of Christ?  We are Gomer, and God is Hosea.  He married us when we were unclean.  He knew that we could prove unfaithful again and again.  He knew that we would forsake him.  Still he loved us and purchased us to himself through Christ’s atonement.  If Hosea’s story cannot be real (because “God would not ask a man to marry an unfaithful woman”), then neither is the story of salvation real, because that is precisely what Christ has done for us.  He has purchased us for himself to be a bride “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27), and he has done this even though he knew in advance that we would often prove faithless.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets: Volume 1, Hosea – Jonah (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983) pg 16-17.